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Image courtesy of Vox
For as long as I can remember, I have had severe anxiety and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). The two go hand-in-hand: my anxious thoughts drive me to seek comfort in ritualistic behaviours, and when I fail to complete these rituals, I fear that something terrible will happen. This makes me depend on these behavioural patterns even more, and the cycle repeats itself.
This is obviously not the most pleasant way to live my life, but I do not know any different. What I have been working on for the past few years is finding ways of coping with these disorders. Blocking out the real world by delving into books, TV shows or even The Sims 4 has helped keep my anxiety under a bit more control. As for my OCD, my routine is very regimented but includes some positive things, like making my bed as soon as I get up (right foot first) or reading exactly twelve pages before I go to sleep.
This has worked for a while, but the Coronavirus pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works.
At first, I, like many others, did not see it as a major threat; I went about my days thinking it will all blow over soon enough. Of course, it did not. Soon, I found my native country of India going into a total lockdown, telling all citizens living overseas to wait it out.
Writing this article, I have had four flights cancelled in the space of six weeks. All my friends have gone home, meaning I am now the only occupant of a house built for nine people. The only sounds I hear when I go for walks through campus now are the leaves blowing across the plaza.
My parents and sister have sat on FaceTime and watched me bawl my eyes out countless times after I’ve had yet another panic attack over the uncertainty of when I can return home. I have been trying to find solace in the fact that the whole world is going through this terrifying pandemic together; but being entirely isolated all the time means I cannot escape my own thoughts.
My hand tremors have come back, I am heavily dependent on my obsessions and rituals, and I can’t fall asleep at night as I lie awake worrying about the future. The paranoia I have not felt since I was thirteen is creeping up on me, to the point where I jump at every sound I hear when in my house. I have had more anxiety-induced breakdowns in the past six weeks than I have had since moving to university last September.
Despite all this, I’ve realised that we do not have a choice but to keep going. Just because it feels as though life has come to a halt, the world still turns. I take the time to remind myself that I do not need to constantly be productive or emerge from quarantine with a six-pack of abs. Just getting through each day the best we can is enough.
So, here is some advice for those out there who are struggling with their mental health during the current crisis:
Go on walks. I never used to do this before, but I have discovered so much of the countryside surrounding Canterbury and find it is a great way to detach from the worries of the real world for an hour.
Treat yourself. Whether it is getting a takeaway from a small restaurant that is trying to stay afloat or putting on a face mask, remind yourself that you deserve to be rewarded for trying your best.
Talk to people. I have gone through phases during this pandemic where I have distanced myself from those I love because I’m afraid I’m burdening them. Trust that your family and friends want nothing more than to help you feel better.
Finally, remember that you’re allowed to struggle and that feeling your mental health issues amplified is entirely valid. Every day that you get through is a victory, and you should be proud of yourself.